College Football Betting Trends: A Unique Week 1 Angle and Potential Week 2 Lookaheads

College Football Betting Trends: A Unique Week 1 Angle and Potential Week 2 Lookaheads article feature image

Ali Gradischer/Getty Images. Pictured: Oregon State quarterback DJ Uiagalelei.

A Historical Look at a Unique Early-Season Situation

Unlike the NFL, where every team plays on the first weekend, college football has a unique Week 0 in which only a few teams make their debut. This year, we saw 14 FBS squads kick off their seasons last weekend with a majority (13 of 14) back in action again in Week 1 against an opponent making its season debut.

That begs the question of which has more importance: shaking out the rust and working out the kinks in live action — or holding a potential film, rest and preparation edge.

Teams that have yet to play can see what their opponent did in the opener. Meanwhile, they can reap the benefits of the unknown. The latter can be especially important in college football, where we see an abundance of coaching and roster turnover each offseason.

Additionally, teams that have yet to play may have a preparation edge. While their opponent may have spent time preparing for their first opponent, teams who didn't play in the opening week had no such concerns.

The extra rest — and sometimes lack of travel and/or injuries — also doesn't hurt. Look at Hawaii, which has to travel over 4,000 miles back home for a game against Stanford on a short week after playing Saturday night following a lightning delay in the Nashville humidity (with multiple cramping episodes). Meanwhile, the Cardinal got to sit at home watching with a much shorter trip this week to the big island.

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Historical Results

In historical against-the-spread terms, the answer is clear: the team making its debut has an advantage. Teams playing their season opener against an opponent that has already played have covered at just under a 55% clip historically, including FCS teams.

However, the FCS market is much less efficient, hence the lower limits. Therefore, if we just isolate FBS teams, they have actually fared a bit better at 56-33 ATS (62.9%) since 2005.

For reference, I only included games played in August and September. That removes eight season openers in 2020 that involved Mountain West and Pac-12 clubs that started late due to pandemic disruptions.

Week 1 Games That Fit the Trend

Week 1 DebutOpponentWeek 0
at USC
W by 28
vs. SJSU
L by 28
at USC
vs UMass
W by 11
vs LA Tech
W by 5
vs. FIU
at Hawaii
L by 7
at Vandy

Keep in mind that Ohio, San Diego State, New Mexico State, FIU, Notre Dame, Vanderbilt, UTEP and Jacksonville State didn't make the cut since they face FCS teams this week. The same goes for Navy, which has a bye.

For what it's worth, no conference matchups fit this scenario this year, as we saw with Illinois-Indiana in 2022. It's a minuscule sample size, but teams making their season debut against a conference foe that played in Week 0 have gone 14-3 ATS (82.3%), covering by an average of just under a touchdown per game.

You could argue teams in that scenario have an even bigger film advantage and may unleash an even greater frequency of new looks since coaches put more weight into conference action. Just something to keep in the memory bank for future seasons.

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Please keep in mind that the aforementioned historical results certainly don't guarantee future success. There's still plenty of noise in a sample size of fewer than 100 games. Plus, many bettors forget that efficient markets do adjust to profitable trends over time.

This is simply an angle I like to keep in mind when handicapping a unique situation that only pops up a handful of times each season in Week 1.

To wit, I'm very familiar with this trend, yet have already bet two teams playing their second game in Week 1 in UMass and Hawaii. What could possibly go wrong?

Week 2 Considerations

Another more familiar unique angle for Week 1 of the college football season looks at the Week 2 schedule.

Teams with a cupcake season opener with a significant matchup in the following week may opt not to show too much from the playbook to keep usable film at a minimum. They also may want to avoid injuries as starters get up to game speed by potentially putting the second-stringers in early.

I especially like to use this as a potential angle for a second-half wager in Week 1 (on either the underdog or under) if the game is a blowout and I believe the favorite will park the bus over the final two quarters.

One must approach every situation and coach differently, so this strategy requires more art than science.

Here are some potential spots that fit the mold this upcoming weekend:


Week 1
Week 2


Texas St.Utah

Notre Dame

Tenn. StateNC State

Texas A&M

New MexicoMiami


Miami OHTexas A&M


Utah St.Iowa State






Portland St.Texas Tech

Some Notes Worth Considering…

The Notre Dame staff has hinted at the fact that it wants to get looks at other quarterbacks whenever possible early in the season. Plus, the players may feel the travel effects of going to Dublin last week the most in Week 2.

Miami will be an intriguing watch with projected starting quarterback Tyler Van Dyke dealing with some bumps and bruises — most notably a thumb injury — from camp. I'm sure they don't want to push him too much with the Aggies coming to Coral Gables next weekend.

Backup Jacurri Brown did see action under center as a true freshman in 2022 due to an injury to Van Dyke, but he remains very raw as a passer.

Iowa, which opens up the season at home as a sizable favorite over Utah State, also had recent quarterback injury concerns with Cade McNamara. However, the Hawkeyes did list the Michigan transfer, who returned to practice this week, as the Week 1 starter.

While they have the Cy-Hawk series coming up next week in Ames, it's worth noting that offensive coordinator Brian Ferentz does have a contract incentive to run up this score if possible in order to get a nice head start on the 25 points-per-game scoring average (and at least seven wins) Iowa must hit for him to secure bonuses and the previous two-year rolling agreement terms.

The biggest game on the docket for Week 2 is clearly Texas at Alabama. Both teams have cupcake openers as over five-touchdown favorites, but it's worth noting that both clubs have ample quarterback depth with a number of backups who could theoretically end up stealing the starting job at some point in the season, especially in the Tide's case.

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